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Conservationists for complete ban on picnics in protected areas
 GUWAHATI, Dec 31 - With the disturbing trend of rowdy picnickers near protected wildlife habitats showing little sign of abatement, conservationists have called for a complete stop to boisterous gatherings inside protected areas, besides strict regulation of such festivities in their peripheral areas.

In the city, during the period from December to January, it has become a common sight to see crowds of noisy picnickers gather near the Deepor Beel Bird Sanctuary and the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. The unbridled celebrations, in scant regard to the sensitive environment of protected forests, end up littering the area with all sorts of wastes like plastic, bottles, food leftovers, etc., besides causing disturbance to the wildlife, particularly birds.

“This disturbing scenario is visible across protected forests in the State. More vulnerable have been the wetlands – including the three bird sanctuaries – that host large congregation of avifauna. There is total lack of enforcement by the Forest authorities and the administration. This is a peak season for birds and loud celebrations with blaring mikes can leave a traumatic impact on them,” conservationist Moloy Baruah of Early Birds said.

Echoing Baruah’s views, Biswajit De of WildRoots questioned how such nuisance and vandalism in the name of picnics and festivals could be allowed in and around protected forests and water bodies. He further questioned the logic behind the forthcoming Deepor Beel Mahotsav.

“How can a festival like this – promising to attract a sizeable crowd in a place already threatened with picnic parties and loud music – be allowed there? While the intent behind the festival may not be bad, and outreach programmes with a cultural touch are beneficial, such an event will only work to the detriment of the wetland, a Ramsar Site and a Bird Sanctuary, and which is already being threatened by hordes of tourists sitting next to the water body and organising picnics blaring loud music,” he said.

Pradipta Baruah, DFO, Guwahati Wildlife Division, however, maintained that this time the Forest Department was not allowing picnics or festivities on the bank of the wetland, and that steps were being taken for regulation of sounds and other irritants.

“Picnics have been organised only on the revenue land, not in immediate vicinity of Deepor Beel. We have had meetings with the local residents and they are taking care to ensure that the place is not littered,” he said, adding that the forthcoming Deepor Beel Festival would also be held in privately-owned land.

“Noisy picnics have really been a disturbance for Deepor Beel. But we are putting a check to it this time. We have held awareness meetings with the locals for sensitising them on the fragile natural environment of the wetland,” he said.

While the district administration keeps imposing prohibitory orders in and around Deepor Beel, violations had been the norm all these years, with large crowds of picnickers invariably indulging in noisy celebrations every year.

“We are monitoring the situation strictly this time. We are not allowing picnics on the wetland’s banks. Legal action will be taken on anyone who violates the prohibitory orders,” a district administration official said.

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